Netflixable? “Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash”

Today’s “Around the World with Netflix” entre is a violent, leering farce about sex, sexual dysfunction, sexual abuse and revenge for such abuse in 1980s Indonesia.

The title — “Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash” — may hint at something gonzo and madcap, but that would be over-selling it. The dark subject matter is discussed in a dramedy as flippant, odd and just-plain-off as its nonsensical title, which probably loses something in translation from “Seperti Dendam, Rindu Harus Dibayar Tuntas.”

Our hero, Ajo (Marthino Lio) has reached adulthood as a motorbike daredevil and an any-excuse-to-fight 20something with more pluck than skill or throw weight. We meet him after another victory in this “chicken”-styled stunt in which he faces off with another rider, racing their mopeds headlong at each other to pluck a cigarette-stuffed beer bottle off the pavement in between them. We then see him goaded into a fight at the local pool hall, where eventually he gets his ass kicked.

It’s an open secret in Ajo’s wide circle of acquaintances. He has no sexual um, get up and go.

He’s tried everything the local hookers have to offer — from sexual come-ons to “cures” that include applying chili powder, syrup and toothpaste to his groin. He takes out his frustration fighting.

“Ajo will fight anybody.” Friends and family mutter “What did the idiot do this time?” after every beating.

That’s how he winds up at a construction site, sent to beat up the boss. First, he has to get past the boss’s badass bodyguard. He can say “I don’t deal with women,” but Iteung (Ladya Cheryl) is not to be taken lightly. Which of course, is exactly what Ajo does.

Whatever goes down there, we can be sure there’s a lot of Pencak silat in all the punches, flips, slaps and kicks. It’s almost a shock when Ajo finally lands a punch or two, and we’re all surprised when he manages to drop Iteung.

Could this be a love match?

“Will you be my boyfriend?” (in Indonesian with English subtitles) doesn’t get her the response she wants. His hemming and hawing that “I don’t want to love anyone, I just want to kick ass” convinces no one.

But if it’s meant to be, it will be. They decide to marry. If only he can fulfill this lucrative but unwanted “assignment” from a retired general who insists he be addressed as “Uncle Gembul (Piet Pagau).” The old man has a score he wants settled, and that turns out to be the first of many.

Iteung and Ajo marry and try to start off life together on Java, running a garage. But they’re burdened with this sexual problem, its horrific “origins” and the violence each gets mixed up in trying to help, placate or “cure” the other.

Writer-director Edwin, who did “Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly,” mixes sentiment with the silly in a time and a corner of Indonesian culture where settling scores personally was commonplace because the rule of law worked for some far better than others.

Characters cheat and threaten and kill, and go to jail for it, but never for that long.

There’s no such thing as “friendly rivalries” in life, love and business. The colorfully-decorated delivery trucks — whose painted images come to animated laugh here and there — are just another venue for blood feuds when one driver undercuts another’s prices.

“Vengeance” has a polish that belies the haphazard structure of the script, with revenge from characters we know and others we only meet in the third act dominating the story.

But Edwin keeps the tone machismo-deflating and goofy, and the film on its feet between fights. Our leads have enough chemistry when they’re throwing down that their characters’ problematic love life together seems immaterial.

The fights are that good. And the visual puns — a fish tank full of phallic looking clams — and dysfunction gags are such a startling contrast to the violence that nothing here can be taken all that seriously, starting with that title.

Revenge is a dish best served…with laughs?

Rating: TV-MA, violence, rape, sex, smoking, profanity and crude sexual humor

Cast: Marthino Lio, Ladya Cheryl, Reza Rahadian, Ratu Felisha and Piet Pagau.

Credits: Scripted and directed by Edwin, based on a work by Eka Kurniawan. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:54

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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